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Californian Road Trip / Plus a bit of Nevada

London, England...
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Californian Road Trip / Plus a bit of Nevada

Hi Guys,

Heading in to LA on the 3rd Oct and flying back out on the 23rd.

Planning on heading up the coast to SF and then through Yosemite down to LV and Grand Canyon after a visit to relatives in San Diego at the beginning.

Probably have around $4000 dollars for the whole trip.

Not sure whether taking a tent and camping equipment. Will it be possible to do this Journey on that Budget but with some comfort?

Anybody recommend an itinerary? Car Hire Company? Places to visit along the way? Places to stay? Any money saving tips or tricks?

I am a 29 year old male and will be travelling with my Girlfriend of the same age. She will be celebrating her 30th Birthday on the 18th October. We like fun, adventure but also our comfort. She has informed me that Camping is not a good option.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you


Liverpool, UK
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1. Re: Californian Road Trip / Plus a bit of Nevada

Personally I'd go with hotels rather than camping as camp reservations could be an issue - you'll also have less of an issue with your baggage allowance on the flights.

For car hire you should ensure you book via the uk website of any of the major rental firms such as Hertz/Avis or a uk based consolidator such as usrentacar to get all the relevant insurance.


You wont need a car in SF so consider dropping off the car on arrival and picking up another on departure to save on parking costs.

For the route you could consider something like the following (after your visit to San Diego.

Spend 3 days/2 nights on the drive up the coast from LA to SF - stopping at the likes of Pismo Beach/Monterey.

Leaving SF head to Yosemite (make reservations to stay in the park) and then on to Death Valley via Tioga Pass (assuming it's open) and then to Death Valley for a night before heading on to Las Vegas. You can then do a 2 day trip to the GCNP before returning to LV and back to LA for your flight.

Try to avoid being in LV on Fri/Sat nights as room rates can be 2 or 3 x the rates for other nights.

Lewes, United...
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2. Re: Californian Road Trip / Plus a bit of Nevada

Great suggestions by Tom already.

Have a look at the Top Q on the right of this forum for car rental info and other advice for first time visitors/drivers in the USA.

I'll have a hunt down of tips to save money and post it in a further response later when I've more time, there are plenty on this forum. I'll also have a more careful think about your budget and flag up if I think there is a problem. Does that price include car rental and all day to day costs, or just your accommodation and meals?

Because of the baggage limits on planes and because camping gear can be so cheap to buy in the USA, if you're set on camping it might actually be cheaper to buy all your camping gear on arrival from a big box store like Walmart (google their website to see prices!) rather than pay hefty extra baggage charges. Also, if the first stop is with rellies, then maybe they can shop to your list and have it all ready for you! Just donate it all to a thrift store at the end.

However, if your GF gets her wish, they you'd be better off in budget motels. We can offer tips on those, too!

18th October is a Friday night, not the best night to be in LV if on a budget, as Tom has already mentioned, for that birthday celebration. I celebrated mine once out in the desert, with some favourite drinks and snacks on a balcony/deck with a view to die for, awesome sunset followed by starlight skies and just us!

The sooner you rent you car, always before travel from the UK, the better the price is likely to be.

Have a great trip,


London, England...
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3. Re: Californian Road Trip / Plus a bit of Nevada

Thanks Tom for your advice. So you think we could probably just stay in Hotels the whole way round?

SWT - Money Saving tips would be fantastic if you have time. I love the idea of purchasing camping gear when we are there. However, I think we will try and avoid camping altogether.

As for our budget. That needs to incorporate all costs. We could go higher but obviously the cheaper the better. I certainly do not want to have to stay in a complete drovel.

Will probably be purchasing a Hire Car this week. Just have so many worries about it as neither of us have had to hire a car before. Hear lots of things about additional charges etc that are hidden from you when purchasing.

Thank you for your time guys, it is greatly appreciated. Will also take some time to read through the other posts.



Houston, TX
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4. Re: Californian Road Trip / Plus a bit of Nevada

Look for accommodations for the Grand Canyon and Yosemite right away--that may determine how you order parts of your trip. The lodges within the parks begin accepting bookings a year in advance and even in October you may find it difficult to find what you want. For the lodges within GCNP book with Xanterra, website is www.grandcanyonledges.com. Anyone else is a third party vendor and will charge you additional fees. There are rooms at a lot of different price ranges in the six lodges at or near the South Rim. If nothing shows up on the website it's worth a call--cancellations do occur and often don't make it back online because some lucky person calls and snaps up the room. The phone number for calls from outside the US is on the website. If you can't find anything there, the next closest will the be town of Tusayan, Arizona, the small gateway town at the south entrance to GCNP. There are a few places there, but you may have the same availability problems and prices won't be much lower. It's always best to stay inside the parks if you can (easier for sunrise and sunset views and a better use of your time all around. Also, it's best not to have to drive on the roads near the park after dark due to the extreme darkness and the presence of wild life on the roads. Other options for GCNP would include Cameron, AZ, about 30 miles away which has the Cameron Trading Post, and Williams, about 60 miles away.

For Yosemite options, have a look at the Yosemite forum and the California forum here on TA. There are top questions on both of those forums that detail the accommodations available and how to do the bookings.

Also post your questions about the drive along the California coast on the California forum. Great experts there with great advice about timing, where to stay, and what to see. Also some great information in the Top Questions section there about that drive.

Budget hotel/motel chains in the US include Sleep Inn, Red Roof Inn, Homewood Suites, La Quinta, Courtyard by Marriott, Baymont Inn among others. Once you nail down an itinerary, have a look at hotel reviews here on TA and google the town names--you can get listings of what accommodations are nearby.

Liverpool, UK
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5. Re: Californian Road Trip / Plus a bit of Nevada


Rental Car - As long as you book before leaving UK all of the costs including the mandatory insurances will be included in the rate, the only cost you might have to pay locally is fuel as most rentals work on the principle of picking up with a full tank and return with a full tank. You can pay for this with the rental firm which can be a little more expensive for the convenience of not having to find a gas station near the rental drop off point.

Budget - I note you say $4000, does this include airfare or is that separate, which is around $200 per day assuming it excludes airfare and to be honest I think it's a bit low although I'm guessing you wont have the same costs staying with relatives for part of your trip. I think you need to plan on around a minimum of $75 per day for dining for 2 and that's eating in modest restaurants. Gas is going to be around $4 per gallon with around 30 mpg.

Washington State
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6. Re: Californian Road Trip / Plus a bit of Nevada

Hotel breakfasts (included at the hotel or from your cooler) and picnic lunches in some of these scenic places will really help your budget.

Definitely get lodging reservations in Yosemite NP and Grand Canyon NP soon. The Top Questions on those forums should help you.

Chula Vista...
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7. Re: Californian Road Trip / Plus a bit of Nevada


One idea that may save you some money (you'll have to do the comparison) is to take the AMTRAK Pacific Surfliner train from Los Angeles to San Diego to see your relatives. It's a 2h 45m ride and costs $37 per person each way. There's a bus service between LAX and Union Station for $7 per person, one-way.



If you sit on the right side of the train heading south you'll have better views.

By taking the train and having your relatives show you around San Diego, you won't have to hire a car for a longer period, perhaps saving you some money. Again, you'll have to do the calculations. And, maybe you pick up the car in San Diego and return it to LAX (make sure there's no one-way drop off fee when you do that.)

Of course, you can find out how much your relatives really love you by asking them to pick you up at LAX and driving you back to San Diego. :-)

As far as economical hotels, check out the Choice Hotels Group... They have a number of hotel chains with good solid hotels.


And, as PNWF suggested, picnic lunches are a good money-saver. You can stop in most major grocery store chains (Vons, Ralphs, Safeway, Albertsons) and go to their deli section where you may find pre-made sandwiches or salads for a fraction of the cost that you would pay in a real deli or restaurant.

Finally, here's a site that shows you gas prices across the country:


Enjoy your trip.


8. Re: Californian Road Trip / Plus a bit of Nevada

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